Geneva junior Janie McCloughan stood on the free throw line in a tie game with 0.8 seconds on the clock in Tuesday’s Class 4A Addison Trail Sectional semifinal against top-seeded WW South knowing the final shot could finally give the Vikings an elusive win over the Tigers.
The past two years, WW South knocked Geneva out of the postseason in the sectional semis. McCloughan bricked the first free throw, but she calmly hit the second one, giving the Vikings a 55-54 win and a berth in Thursday’s sectional title game against rival Batavia, who swept the season series on Geneva in the regular season.
“Almost every day I stay after practice to work on my free throws,” McCloughan said. “This is exactly the moment I was waiting for. The first one was pure nerves. You’re so prepared for that stuff, but when the nerves get into your head, it’s hard to get them out. I totally knew I could do it. I had to believe in myself.”
WW South (28-4) took a 51-50 lead with 3:05 left on a Meghan Waldron jumper. It was freshman center Grace Loberg who gave the lead back to the Vikings (25-5). She hit a pair of free throws with 2:56 left and then scored a wild lay-up with 1:35 left to open a 54-51 lead.
n triple coverage in the lane, Loberg pushed a shot up over the crowd that somehow found the back of the net. Her teammates and coaches were still trying to figure out what happened after the game.
“It was incredible,” McCloughan said. “I don’t even know if that was meant to be a shot, but it worked. We’ll take it.”
Teammate Morgan Seberger was at a loss, as well.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Seberger said. “I don’t even know what that was. It went in, so hey, two points.”
But the Tigers had some fight left. Melinda Franke split two free throws and Maggie Dansdill hit a jumper with 25 seconds left to tie the game at 54-54. On Geneva’s last possession, Loberg missed a shot, but McCloughan fought for the rebound and was fouled, setting up the winning point.
“We knew coming n that we were the underdog, and we were every time we played them,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “I feel like they really believe they can play with anybody, especially a team they think is better than them. They’re going to rise up against them.”
Geneva came out blazing from three-point range. The Vikings hit 6-of-8 threes in the first half to open a 32-22 lead at the break. Seberger hit four of those bombs.
But the Tigers slowly climbed back in the second half on the strength of their offensive rebounding and transition game. They ended the third quarter on a 14-4 run to open a 42-40 lead.
“What they did in the second half is who they are,” WWS coach Rob Kroehnke said. “We knew at halftime we could give them a little more than we did. We came out in the second half and kept chewing away at it. It’s just unbelievable, the effort.”
Waldron led the Tigers with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Dansdill scored 13 and Erin Zappia added 10. Loberg led all scorers with 20 points for Geneva. Seberger scored 15, all coming on three-pointers.